Great December Day

It looked like fair weather so Kurt and I took off work and Jeff and Bob are retired, and we headed out in the Boy’s boat to go deer hunting. We had to break ice in the harbor from their stall almost to the harbor entrance, and then we were free of it. I stood on the bow with Bob and we each used an oar to punch holes in the 1/4″ thick ice on either side of the bow and Kurt idled it through. We headed down the channel and there was even some skim ice here and there in the channel. It was an unexpected pleasure having Jeff aboard as he never hunts with us. I told him he could drop us off and fish and that was all it took for him.

We headed down the channel about 8:30am, just a little before a spectacular sunrise. Kurt dropped Bob and I off and he and Jeff then went to cruise the beaches for deer while Bob and I hiked up to a place I saw on Google Earth that looked good. I’d been there before but we were going to try to hunt more in this area. We hunted for about 3 hours. Although we saw lots of what we thought was fresh sign that looked recently deposited but was frozen, we didn’t see a deer. I called to Jeff on the VHF and he and Kurt about 1 pm and they were not far away and soon we were headed back to town. We hadn’t seen any deer, but it was a bluebird day, about 30 degrees, and almost calm. The kind of day you can hunt all day and it’s not too hot and not too cold.

Jeff has a king crab pot out so we stopped to pull that. Jeff had it in about 150 feet of water, and pulled it by hand. No king crab, but lots of tanner crab – my favorite. Seems like not that many people go for tanner crab and I don’t really know why. They taste better than dungeness crab or king crab to me, and easy to clean and cook. We looked up the minimum size for tanner crab to be sure, then measured and kept the males that were large enough and pitched the rest of the males back to grow and the girls to make more males. We had to do some more ice punching to get back to the stall in the harbor, but not as bad as going out as our trail was still mostly there. When we tied up, a trooper was there to check our haul, but when we said we didn’t have any king crab, he moved on to others coming in. Lots of people have been cited for king crab violations, I suspect because it’s so rarely open that people don’t remember to write down their catch or try to keep more than they are allowed because of the rare season. I cleaned our crab and none of them had bitter crab disease, which is a condition Tanner crab have that doesn’t seem to bother them but makes their flesh taste – you guessed it – bitter. When you pull off the carapace, the body fluid will be milky instead of the normal clear. I think I remember it used to infect 20 percent of the crab, but we had not a one, so good for us.

As we hauled our gear up the dock, a lad of about 11 was standing by the boat he just came in on, at the handles of a cart with a buck and a doe in it. I asked him if he got the deer and he said yes, and I said congratulations, you’ve just won some donuts, and I handed him our box with 3 big donuts left in it. I’m not sure he realized what was going on until he lifted the cover and saw the donuts and then said and enthusiastic “thanks!”. What a place to be an 11 year old. I got up to Bob’s truck and Jeff doled a crab out each to Bob and I. I went to work after I unloaded my gear at home, and returned to the house about 6. Sara wasn’t home yet. I got out a pot, put about 2 inches of water in the bottom, and put it on the stove on high heat, then dropped in the crab. When the water started to boil, I steamed the crab for 8 minutes, then drained the boiling water off and replaced it with cold water to cool the crab and stop the cooking. Cooling it makes the meat come out easier, too, so they say. Sara still wasn’t home, so I took a half a crab in a big bowl, put a paper towel in my collar for a bib, and started in. Wow. Crack the crab and pull out the meat. Take the pointy ends of the legs to draw out meat from the joints and the body sections to get every last morsel. No adding butter. It’s as good as it’s gonna get just like this. Sara came home later and was skeptical to my saying it’s better than king crab until she tasted hers. She likes to pull all the meat out first before she eats any. That’s just plain wrong but I don’t judge. She ate quite a bit with her fingers, then put some on bread with some cheese into the toaster over to have some like that. Hard to have a better day than today.